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Juno, Choice, and Stigmatizing Teen Pregnancy

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October 16, 2012

Click to watch the trailer for Juno

When Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s Juno premiered five years ago, it became an immediate critical and theatrical success. Oprah, barometer of all things of-the-moment, called the indie dramedy “fresh.” Legendary movie critic Robert Ebert hailed it as “the best movie of the year.” What makes this all the more fascinating is that Juno isn’t just a little quirky independent film in a similar vein as Garden State and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. It’s also a film about a pregnant teen, and her remarkably solitary quest to deal with her pregnancy accordingly, in a way that works for her. Simply put, Juno is all about choice.

One of the most remarkable things about the 2007 film was that it put the power back in the hands of a pregnant youth. We follow the protagonist, Juno MacGuff, as she researches the myriad options for unintended pregnancy, from abortion to adoption to a less-conducive candy noose. The film also explores the relationships between MacGuff, her peers, family, friends, boyfriend, and the family that hopes to adopt her yet-to-be-born child. I appreciate that an equal amount to screentime is devoted to Juno’s search for reproductive healthcare as it is these interpersonal relationships.

Being a pregnant youth is never a cut-and-dry matter. It’s never just about an adoption plan or “a procedure.” Despite Juno’s happy ending and the increasing prevalence of teen mothers in the media (16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom), pregnant youth are still stigmatized in their day-to-day lives. It’s not uncommon for students to be moved to less-accredited institutions of learning after their school’s administration learns of the pregnancy, effectively turning a reproductive struggle into an educational one, as well. Being young and pregnant in America is a series of potentially awkward coming out moments, the sort where one crosses their fingers and hopes they won’t be condemned by the people and institutions they love the most.

Perhaps one of the best things to come from out of the Juno craze of ’07 were leading lady Ellen Page’s quotes about being a feminist.

I am a feminist and I am totally pro-choice, but what’s funny is when you say that people assume that you are pro-abortion. I don’t love abortion but I want women to be able to choose and I don’t want white dudes in an office being able to make laws on things like this. I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?

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